Friday, November 30, 2012

The Neighbors by Ania Ahlborn

Ania Ahlborn seems to be the next great thing in the horror world. Her debut, Seed, has been getting nothing but great reviews and now her latest, The Neighbors, has hit shelves as well.

Andrew Morrison has had enough. After taking care of his mom for years, it's become too much to handle. Now he's moved out and found a place rooming with his old friend, Mickey Fitch. At first, Drew is a bit disappointed to see that the house is kind of a dump. Not to be deterred, he quickly decides that a good cleaning will improve the situation vastly. He and Mickey seem to be getting along great and the neighbors are friendly and welcoming. Or maybe just a little too friendly and welcoming. Red and Harlow Ward open their arms and the door to Drew, inviting him to dinner, bringing him cookies, and even offering him a job. But they have twisted plans for their new neighbor. 


I think my favorite thing about this book is the fact that Ahlborn seems to know just when to pull back with the detail. This could easily have been an incredible gore fest of a book, but Ahlborn reigns it in just a bit, leaving some of the horror to the reader's imagination. Trust me, there's still plenty of detail and violence provided, but it's that little extra bit that forces your brain go into its darkest corners and makes the book that much scarier.

The Neighbors is a quick read, but one that packs a punch!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Audio Review: Spark by Amy Kathleen Ryan

When readers last left the teens in Glow, Waverly and the surviving group of girls kidnapped by the New Horizon had finally made their way back to the Empyrean. Kieran has become the pseudo leader of the ship and Seth has been thrown in the brig for threatening Kieran's life. 

Now, the Empyrean has increased speed in hopes of catching up with the New Horizon. Though they don't have a solid plan for rescuing their parents, their hope is that they may be able to get them back... somehow. Waverly is understandably apprehensive of Kieran and his new role on the Empyrean, which bears a marked resemblance to Anne Mather's control of the New Horizon. And since Waverly barely survived her own experience with Mather, she can't help but worry about Kieran and the fate of their own remaining crew. Things start to go south for the Empyrean when Seth manages to somehow escape the brig. Evidence of sabotage on the ship is quickly blamed on Seth, though Waverly is certain he can't be behind it. Then the crew discovers that Waverly's escape pod brought more than just the surviving girls from the New Horizon -- a stowaway managed to hide on board and has plans for the Empyrean. As Kieran begins to lose control, Waverly and Seth band together with a plan to save their parents and hopefully escape the New Horizon's clutches once and for all. 

Amy Kathleen Ryan's series so far has left me more than a bit unsettled. The cult-like grip that Mather and then Kieran seem to have on their followers is disturbing to say the least. The kidnapping of the girls for the sole purpose of harvesting their eggs was also highly creepy and added an uncomfortable ick factor to the story.

Spark moves the story along somewhat, but also left me feeling as though little progress had been made in the tale action-wise. It seemed the psychological effects on the kids were the main focus of this installment.

One of the things I want to like about the story is the fact that the kids are in charge. They're left to figure out how to survive and fend for themselves. But the continued waffling on the part of each of the characters -- Waverly, Seth, and Kieran, for the most part -- got to a point where it almost overwhelmed the story as a whole. Yes, they're kids. Yes, the emotional struggle of having these massive responsibilities laid upon them is a HUGE part of this story. Unfortunately the characters at times became both incredibly whiny and paranoid as well as seemingly changing personality characteristics at the drop of a hat.

There's enough going on that I've continued two books into the series -- I've invested enough time in these characters and these stories that I want to know what's going to happen -- but this is not a favorite series of mine. My overall issues with the books could likely be chalked up to my being an adult and beyond the target audience. I'm willing to give it that.

The series is ok, in my opinion. I sort of think that the bones of the story are interesting but that the execution needs a bit more polish to be truly great.

I did think the narrators, Ilyana Kadushin and Matthew Brown, did a great job in reading this one. The two alternate reading from each of the characters perspectives -- meaning that each of them reads as the boys and the girls rather than Kadushin tackling only the girls' narration and Brown the boys', which made more sense considering the story is told in third person narration. The pacing was great and the breaks between scenes was clear and smooth.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Crossed by Ally Condie

Readers, I have to admit that even though I was completely blown away by Ally Condie's Matched, I waited a very long time to read this follow up. And I am so glad that I did!

Book three in the trilogy, Reached, hit shelves just this month and I waited until I had my copy in hand to dive into book two, which means that I got to jump right into book three! And with the end of Crossed in mind, this was very fortunate indeed.

After the events of Matched, Cassia and Ky have been separated. Cassia is on work detail planning her attempt to find Ky, who has been sent to the Outer Provinces. Deemed an Aberration by the Society, Ky has no chance of returning and Cassia knows that this is the only way to find him once again. Armed with a compass and the blue tablets stolen for her by her best friend, Xander, Cassia plans to make her way to the Outer Provinces by herself. She's prepared for a rough journey but before she can leave, the Society steps in. Cassia and a group of other girls are being sent to the Outer Provinces. The Society has been shipping people to the area on a regular basis, using them as bait in hopes that the enemy will believe the Provinces are still heavily settled. In truth, the people sent there don't last long. When Cassia arrives, she discovers that Ky has already made his own escape into the nearby canyons. This area was once Ky's home and he knows it well, but can Cassia survive long enough to be reunited with him?

Crossed alternates chapters between Cassia and Ky, telling the story from each of their perspectives. It's an interesting tactic that's effective here because both characters have very different backgrounds and, therefore, very different reactions to each of the challenges they face.

The history of the Society is touched on in further detail as well, but their motivations are still something of a mystery. What's more, the element of the Rising is added here and Ky in particular makes the reader question just who is actually the good guy.

I love this series! So much intensity, such great world building, and the creepy dystopian Society! I read Crossed in one afternoon and almost immediately started reading Reached.

As an aside, if you're currently looking for great holiday gifts, this trilogy now comes in a boxed set. Just don't plan on seeing your reader until they finish reading all three :)

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Tears in Rain by Rosa Montero

Imagine a world in which cloning has become a reality. First contact with extraterrestrials has long since passed, teleportation technology exists, and humans travel through space for industry and settlement. This is the reality of Rosa Montero's Tears in Rain a book both inspired by and paying homage to Blade Runner.

Bruna Husky is a replicant with just four years left of her ten year life span. Once a combat rep, she now makes a living as a private investigator. When a neighbor -- and rep -- shows up on her doorstep raving like a madwoman and later killing herself after attempting to take down Bruna as well, the rep finds herself embroiled in a complicated new case. Her neighbor was not the first of the reps to die in this strange manner. The culprit seems to be a manipulated memory implant, one that convinced the rep that she was indeed human and suffering as a result of a grave conspiracy. In total there have been seven such cases and in each of the more recent instances, the reps have managed to take out a number of people around them as well. Bruna has been hired by the leader of the Radical Replicant Movement to find out who is behind these illegal implants and murders. But as tensions rise between humans and reps, Bruna realizes that case is even stranger than it initially seems.

Tears in Rain is great on a number of levels. The setting and world building are wonderful, the mystery is well plotted, the characters -- Bruna in particular -- are appealing and well realized, and the nods to Blade Runner work without becoming too overly employed or copied.

I personally liked the wiki entries as well. I have to agree with other reviewers to an extent and admit that they do slow the narrative just a bit, but it wasn't anything I found to be overly problematic. In fact, I thought they added well to the world building in particular, which can typically become bogged down and overloaded with the kind of information that's introduced as encyclopedic entries instead. And the fact that they become more and more inflamed with incorrect information, thus shown by the character Yiannis and his edits, also adds to the increasing friction between the humans and the reps.

At its most basic level, this is a mystery. It's a mystery wrapped up in a science fiction package, though, and Montero has blended the genres perfectly. I don't know if there will be more in store for US readers and Bruna, but I certainly hope so. This is the first of Montero's books to be released in the States and it hit shelves today.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Walking Dead winner

By random number generator, the winner of the Walking Dead book giveaway is:

Theresa N. 

Congrats, Theresa! You'll be getting a copy of Robert Kirkman and Jay Bonansinga's two Walking Dead novels, Rise of the Governor and The Road to Woodbury

Thanks to everyone who entered and be sure to check back for new posts and new giveaways!

Cold City by F. Paul Wilson

I first came to F. Paul Wilson via the reprint of The Keep back in my bookseller days (2000 to be exact). At the time, I'd planned on jumping into the rest of the Adversary Cycle but could only get my hands on The Tomb, which also happened to be the first Repairman Jack title. Alas like most well intentioned plans my Repairman Jack reading was much delayed and I never bought the series.

Now skip ahead to present day and F. Paul Wilson's latest Repairman Jack entry, which kicks off a new prequel trilogy to the Repairman Jack series. Cold City is Repairman Jack before he became Repairman Jack. It's his first days in New York City and the story of how he comes to be the character he is by the time The Tomb takes place. This makes it a perfect starting off point for anyone new to the series (me) in addition to being a great new release for longtime fans to sink their teeth into.

Jack has recently moved to the Big Apple and is making do with a landscaping job. His mother's death is still fresh on his mind and after exacting revenge on her killer he's cut all ties with home. Here in New York, he's living under the radar with no phone and no paper trail. He doesn't even tell people his real name. An altercation at work leaves him unemployed and searching for a new job when fate steps in: an acquaintance of a friend has an opening for a delivery driver. No, it's not all on the up and up but the risk should be minimal and the pay is way more than Jack could expect mowing lawns. But this new job isn't all it's cracked up to be. Jack finds himself busting a ring of human traffickers and getting on the wrong side of some very bad people. 

There are so many threads in this story. One of the things I really enjoyed was seeing how Wilson was going to bring them all together. Some of them connect and some of them are side stories that help mold Jack into becoming the "Repairman."

What I didn't love about this book was the completely open ending. Nothing is wrapped up. I'm assuming because each story will carry over into the remainder of the trilogy, but I would have loved to see just one part resolved in turning the final page of Cold City. Ah, well. Them's the breaks sometimes.

I will say this, I was intrigued and captivated by Jack's story. Wilson has a knack for drawing in readers and Jack is the perfect kind of lead to carry a long series -- the official Repairman Jack is 15 titles, there are three Teen Jack titles as well, and now this Early Years trilogy. (For a full title listing visit the official site here.) I'll be adding more titles to my TBR very shortly!

And the good news for me and other 2000 Keep discoverers, The Adversary Cycle was recently brought back in print.

Cold City officially hits shelves tomorrow.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

New releases 11/27/12

Some of the new titles hitting shelves this week are:

The Neighbors by Ania Ahlborn

The Legend of Broken by Caleb Carr

Tears of Rain by Rosa Montero

Cold City by F. Paul Wilson

Seal Team 666 by Weston Ochse

Moonshifted by Cassie Alexander

Lethal Investments by K.O. Dahl

The Thieves of Legend by Richard Doetsch

Lust for Life by Jeri Smith-Ready

King of the Dead by Joseph Nassie

Not Dead Yet by Peter James

The Gilded Lily by Deborah Swift

The Black Box by Michael Connelly

Trapped by Kevin Hearne

Cold Days by Jim Butcher

Touched by Corrine Jackson

Lullaby by Amanda Hocking

The Lucky Ones by Anna Godbersen

Fragile Darkness by Ellie James

New on DVD:
Men in Black 3
The Apparition

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Mannheim Rex by Robert Pobi

Horror author Gavin Corlie is spiraling out of control. The recent death of his wife has left him reeling and ending it all is frequently on his mind. He decides his only option is a complete change of scenery -- getting away from the places and spaces he once shared with her. He finds the perfect fixer-upper in New Mannheim, on the banks of Lake Caldasac. The picturesque setting and the quaint town should be a destination for fishermen and tourists, but New Mannheim is hiding a secret. The town has seen a shocking number of disappearances and strange accidents. Most people avoid the lake as a whole and take their fishing elsewhere. When a local boy, Finn Horn, barely survives an accident on the lake while fleeing from Gavin, the author feels a sense of responsibility. After all, the boy was welcome to fish in Gavin's little bay, but the shock of the new arrival was enough to scare him away. After meeting Finn and hearing his story, though, Gavin becomes interested in the lake's strange history and the rumors of a monstrous killing machine that lives in its depths.

This past week has been a bit of a slow one reading wise. Interesting how that happens: my pace waxes and wanes with no predictable pattern at all. It can't even be chalked up to tv watching considering a lot of my shows have been on that weird mid season hiatus of late. Robert Pobi's latest seems to have been my pick me up.

I'm a fan of a fun creature feature horror read, so I'd been looking forward to my chance to dive into this one for a while. It hit the spot for sure. It's a bit schlocky, a bit gory, and lots of fun! Admittedly I have a bit of a phobia about underwater creepies, so this is also the perfect sort of skin crawling read for a person like me.

Aside from the creature itself, Gavin and Finn really made the story for me, though. Gavin and his authorly insights are fun on their own but as an author who's also a widow in mourning -- one who does take his time telling his own story -- he's appealing on a lot of levels. Finn, the handicapped thirteen-year-old who becomes Gavin's best friend and partner in crime, is sarcastic and witty as well as completely quirky.

There's plenty of violence and death to go along with the creepy creature and the cool characters -- and there's an entertaining story besides, so you pretty much can't go wrong with this one if you're looking for a fun addition to your TBR. I tell you what, though, I wouldn't move to Lake Caldasac!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The Hollow Man by Oliver Harris

Good morning, readers. I'm a stop on the TLC tour for Oliver Harris's fabulous debut today!

Detective Nick Belsey is in a bit of trouble: he's broke and the creditors are lining up. He's got no place to live and he's just woken up bloody and bruised, laying in the grass. Nearby he finds a wrecked cop car (not even from his district) and no sign of his phone, wallet, or ID. Not to mention the fact that he has little to no memory of how he got here. It's a great way to start the day. When he arrives in the office he finds a missing persons notice on his desk. A wealthy businessman has disappeared. Belsey soon hatches a plan to get himself out of London. But as he learns more about the man, in an attempt to to steal his money, the detective gets roped into a case that's more twisted than he could have expected.

Oh, my. The Hollow Man was either the perfect read or just happened to hit me at the perfect time. I zipped through this much quicker than I'd expected. Belsey and his dirty, dirty ways captivated me. I mean here he is, his life is basically falling apart (all his fault) and he's digging the hole deeper -- all the while investigating a case that becomes more complicated with each new clue. And all for the sole purpose of ripping off a dead guy!

Belsey is a fascinating character. He's really not a good guy, but even in the midst of his worst plans he also comes across somehow as not being all that bad. He commands attention, to say the very least. While his motives are completely self serving, he's kind of a crazy great detective.

This is very much one of those books that should come with a warning. Something like: Warning -- you won't get anything done until you finish this book! Or maybe: Warning -- don't plan on sleeping tonight! Possibly even: Warning -- don't read on your lunch break, will cause compulsive and uncontrollable reading break urges!

The Hollow Man (along with Lynda La Plante's latest Anna Travis installment, Blood Line) just happens to be one of the inaugural titles in HarperCollins brand new Bourbon Street Books imprint. Considering how much I enjoyed Harris's debut, I have to say I'll definitely be looking into other Bourbon Street titles for sure.

To see the complete list of tour stops for both Hollow Man and Blood Line, visit the official TLC tour page here.

For more on Oliver Harris, check out his website here. You can also check out the first chapters of Hollow Man here and follow Harris on Twitter. And you can like Bourbon Street Books over on Facebook.

Monday, November 19, 2012

The Scottish Witch Winner!

Good morning, all. The winner of Cathy Maxwell's Scottish Witch is:

Diane D. 

Congrats, Diane! I've sent you an email this morning as well.

Thanks to everyone who stopped by. 

Sunday, November 18, 2012

New releases 11/20/12

Pretty slim release list this week but here goes, some of the new titles hitting shelves this week are:

Notorious Nineteen by Janet Evanovich

Spirit's End by Rachel Aaron (Eli Monpress series)

The Forgotten by David Baldacci

Mannheim Rex by Robert Pobi

New on DVD:
The Expendables 2

New reviews at Bookbitch.com:
Luther: The Calling by Neil Cross
Fourth Grave Beneath My Feet by Darynda Jones

Friday, November 16, 2012

Luther: The Calling by Neil Cross

When audiences first met DCI John Luther in 2010, he was chasing someone down in an abandoned building. Meanwhile, his counterparts were frantically searching a house. We soon learned that Luther's perp was a kidnapper who'd sealed a child into a container with limited air and time was running out. The girl is found and Luther makes an agonizing decision -- not to save the perpetrator of such a heinous crime, but to let him fall to his death.

And thus begins episode one of season one of the BBC show, Luther.

John Luther is a troubled cop who doesn't always make the "right" decision, but he gets the job done. He's suspended after the events above and closely watched throughout both seasons 1 and 2 of the show -- surely the upcoming season 3 as well. But what brought him to this place?

Luther: The Calling is the new prequel book covering the case that ended in the beginning of the show.

Someone has brutally murdered a young couple in their home. What makes the case so much worse is the fact that the wife was expecting and the murderer took the child. The newborn's chances are slim and John Luther is on the case. As the police frantically hunt for the killer, Luther's wife is slipping away. Concern over her husband's state of mind and frustration about their relationship has backed her into a corner. Meanwhile, any waking moment Luther is not on the case, he's helping out a friend (Ian Reed) and an old man who's being harassed out of his home. Stress doesn't begin to describe it. 

Author and show creator Neil Cross's complicated leading character is the guy you root for no matter what. You see his struggles with his decisions and you also begin to see how each bad decision will snowball for Luther.

Luther: The Calling is dark and graphic. Anyone familiar with the show knows this, but somehow seeing it in black and white -- letters on a crisp page -- it's even more brutal than the show. Course subject wise this one is rough as well. Much more so than the focus of either season so far.

A warning to anyone who has yet to watch the show: my recommendation is to read the book after having watched season 1. I know that seems backwards given the book is a prequel but some of the things introduced in the book tie in to things revealed in the first season. What are essentially massive bombshells in the show will lose their impact if you read the book first.

(As an aside, the book does stand on its own if you haven't watched the show and don't plan to.)

It's interesting to note that having been introduced to Idris Elba as Luther, he has become the character. It's impossible to read Luther: The Calling and not imagine Elba as the quick-tempered and worry plagued cop.

And for show fans (like me) who are itching for more, here's some interesting news about the fate of the show and a possible (crossing fingers!) spin off. And a little vid from BBC One:

(US viewers can apparently expect a new Neil Cross show on NBC soon as well.)

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Q&A with J.A. Souders

Morning, everyone! And a big welcome to J.A. Souders today!

J.A. Souders is the author of the fabulous new teen dystopian release, Renegade.

Since the age of three, sixteen-year-old Evelyn Winters has believed that everything is just about flawless in in the underwater utopia known as Elysium. As the adopted Daughter of the People, she has been trained to take over by Mother, the community’s leader. Selected from hundreds of children for her ideal genes, all her life she’s believed that everything is perfect. Her world. Her people. The Law.

In Elysium, Evelyn and her fellow citizens have been to despise the vicious, immoral Surface Dweller. But when Gavin Hunter, a Surface Dweller, accidentally stumbles into Elysium’s secluded little world, Evelyn comes to a startling realization: Everything she knows is a lie.

Her memories have been altered.

Her mind and body aren’t under her own control.

And the person she knows as Mother is a monster.

Together with Gavin she plans her escape, only to learn that her own mind is a ticking time bomb...and Mother has one last secret that will destroy them all.

You can read my review here.

Now to the Q&A:

What’s your daily writing routine like?

My routine depends on where I'm at in the writing process. If I've already plotted out the story and I've set my playlist up already and I don't have any editing to do for other books, I start writing between 10am and 11am and I'll write at 1 hr intervals, writing as much as I can in that hour. Then I take a 1/2 hour break, and do it all again, writing in 1 hr bursts until I get in a minimum of 4,000 words for the day. Hopefully, I'll be done with that before lunch. After all that I spend some time on marketing. I usually stop after I get my daughter from school. Then it starts all over the next day.

Renegade has a quite unique setting. Your bio info and interest in SeaQuest definitely explains some of that but I wondered if your time in the Navy inspired any parts of Renegade?

I'd be lying if I said no. A lot of my time in the Navy seeped into parts of Renegade. Mainly the ideas for how the city would run self-sufficiently and how rationing and cleaniness, etc would work.

What else inspires you -- either in general or in writing Renegade in particular?

Music is a huge inspiration. I listen to it all the time and certain scenes just jump into my head because of a song. Sometimes movies can provide inspiration, even a conversation with someone can make the inspiration wheels spin madly.

You’ve mentioned SeaQuest and Christopher Pike as likes and semi-influences on your site and in other interviews, it sounds like we grew up around the same time. Any other 90s era gems you feel you should recommend to today’s teens who might be missing out on all that fun?

Saturday morning cartoons. The "old-school" ones. Now days everyone can watch whatever they want, whenever they want. I know cartoons are for "kids," but I'm an avid cartoon watcher and I miss the "old-school" ones that were only found on Saturday mornings. There was just something exciting about waking up early on Saturdays before your parents were up and watching the cartoons. :)

What’s in your TBR?

Ha! THAT list is entirely too long to list, so I'll just choose a few at random. Stormdancer by Jay Kristoff, Catching Jordan by Miranda Kenneally, Perfection by J.L. Spelbring
Any advice for aspiring young writers today?

Keep writing and keep reading. No matter what obstacles you encounter, just keep moving forward.

What are you working on now? Will you be returning to Elysium for another book?

Well, I'm working on book 3 of the Elysium Chronicles, but that's all I can say without spoiling anything. ; )

Woohoo! I'll be first in line to get books two and three of the series for sure! A big, big thanks to J.A. Souders for being on the blog today and an equally big thanks to Tor for inviting me to host. Renegade is out now and I definitely recommend tracking down a copy for your TBR stack. 
For more on Souders, including an FAQ and links to other appearances, check out her website here. To join the Elysium Underground and help promote Renegade (and earn points to win stuff), visit the Elysium Underground site here

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Giveaway -- The Walking Dead: Rise of the Governor and Road to Woodbury

Fabulous news, Walking Dead fans. Thanks to the folks at Wunderkind and Thomas Dunne, I'm hosting a Walking Dead giveaway!

One lucky winner will get one copy of each of the new Walking Dead novels: The Rise of the Governor and The Road to Woodbury by Robert Kirkman and Jay Bonansinga. Giveaway dets are at the bottom of this post.

These are the first two in a three book series. Here's more info from the publisher's page:

From the mind of Robert Kirkman, the legendary comic book auteur and creator of The Walking Dead, comes a new series of all-original novels steeped in the terrifying mythos of the Eisner Award winning comic.  Co-written with bestselling novelist and Stoker Award finalist Jay Bonansinga, the books thrust readers right into the middle of the greatest zombie apocalypse epic ever told.  

The first volume, THE WALKING DEAD: RISE OF THE GOVERNOR, explores the heart-wrenching and horrifying origin of the comic world’s most infamous villain: Philip Blake, AKA The Governor.  Following Blake and his ragtag band of survivors as they carve out a terrifying path through infested subdivisions and rotting cities, RISE OF THE GOVERNOR is a fever dream of a road trip that explores the making of a super-villain, culminating in a mind-bending twist-ending.

The second volume in the series, THE WALKING DEAD: THE ROAD TO WOODBURY, (nearing completion at press time) delves even deeper into the dark heart of the Governor, taking readers through the fractured looking glass of a small town turned into a deadly dictatorship. As seen through the eyes of a troubled bystander, Lilly Caul, this rotting utopia crumbles under the weight of its own excesses and lurid pastimes...

And, to give you a little taste, I've got a bit of an excerpt here for you as well:


No one in the clearing hears the biters coming through the high trees.
The metallic ringing noises of tent stakes going into the cold, stubborn Georgia clay drown the distant footsteps— the intruders still a good five hundred yards off in the shadows of neighboring pines. No one hears the twigs snapping under the north wind, or the telltale guttural moaning noises, as faint as loons behind the treetops. No one detects the trace odors of putrid meat and black mold marinating in feces. The tang of autumn wood smoke and rotting fruit on the midafternoon breeze masks the smell of the walking dead.
In fact, for quite a while, not a single one of the settlers in the burgeoning encampment registers any imminent danger whatsoever—most of the survivors now busily heaving up support beams hewn from found objects such as railroad ties, telephone poles, and rusty lengths of rebar.
“Pathetic . . . look at me,” the slender young woman in the ponytail comments with an exasperated groan, crouching awkwardly by a square of paint- spattered tent canvas folded on the ground over by the northwest corner of the lot. She shivers in her bulky Georgia Tech sweatshirt, antique jewelry, and ripped jeans. Ruddy and freckled, with long, deep-brown hair that dangles in tendrils wound with delicate little feathers, Lilly Caul is a bundle of nervous tics, from the constant yanking of stray wisps of hair back behind her ears to the compulsive gnawing of fingernails. Now, with her small hand she clutches the hammer tighter and repeatedly whacks at the metal stake, grazing the head as if the thing is greased.
“It’s okay, Lilly, just relax,” the big man says, looking on from behind her.
“A two- year- old could do this.”
“Stop beating yourself up.”
“It’s not me I want to beat up.” She pounds some more, twohanding the hammer. The stake goes nowhere. “It’s this stupid stake.”
“You’re choked up too high on the hammer.”
“I’m what?”
“Move your hand more toward the end of the handle, let the tool do the work.”
More pounding.
The stake jumps off hard ground, goes flying, and lands ten feet away.
“Damn it! Damn it!” Lilly hits the ground with the hammer, looks down and exhales.
“You’re doing fine, babygirl, lemme show you.”
The big man moves in next to her, kneels, and starts to gently take the hammer from her. Lilly recoils, refusing to hand over the implement. “Give me a second, okay? I can handle this, I can,” she insists, her narrow shoulders tensing under the sweatshirt.
She grabs another stake and starts again, tapping the metal crown tentatively. The ground resists, as tough as cement. It’s been a cold October so far, and the fallow fields south of Atlanta have hardened. Not that this is a bad thing. The tough clay is also porous and dry—for the moment at least—hence the decision to pitch camp here. Winter’s coming, and this contingent has been regrouping here for over a week, settling in, recharging, rethinking their futures—if indeed they have any futures.
“You kinda just let the head fall on it,” the burly African-American demonstrates next to her, making swinging motions with his enormous arm. His huge hands look as though they could cover her entire head. “Use gravity and the weight of the hammer.”
It takes a great deal of conscious effort for Lilly not to stare at the black man’s arm as it pistons up and down. Even crouching in his sleeveless denim shirt and ratty down vest, Josh Lee Hamilton cuts an imposing figure. Built like an NFL tackle, with monolithic shoulders, enormous tree-trunk thighs, and thick neck, he still manages to carry himself quite gently. His sad, long-lashed eyes and his deferential brow, which perpetually creases the front of his balding pate, give off an air of unexpected tenderness. “No big deal . . . see?” He shows her again and his tattooed bicep—as big as a pig’s belly—jumps as he wields the imaginary hammer. “See what I’m sayin’?”
Lilly discreetly looks away from Josh’s rippling arm. She feels a faint frisson of guilt every time she notices his muscles, his tapered back, his broad shoulders. Despite the amount of time they have been spending together in this hell- on- earth some Georgians are calling “the Turn,” Lilly has scrupulously avoided crossing any intimate boundaries with Josh. Best to keep it platonic, brother-and-sister, best buds, nothing more. Best to keep it strictly business . . . especially in the midst of this plague.
But that has not stopped Lilly from giving the big man coy little sidelong grins when he calls her “girlfriend” or “babydoll” . . . or making sure he gets a glimpse of the Chinese character tattooed above Lilly’s tailbone at night when she’s settling into her sleeping bag. Is she leading him on? Is she manipulating him for protection? The rhetorical questions remain unanswered.
For Lilly the embers of fear constantly smoldering in her gut have cauterized all ethical issues and nuances of social behavior. In fact, fear has dogged her off and on for most her life—she developed an ulcer in high school, and had to be on antianxiety meds during her aborted tenure at Georgia Tech—but now it simmers constantly inside her. The fear poisons her sleep, clouds her thoughts, presses in on her heart. The fear makes her do things.
She seizes the hammer so tightly now it makes the veins twitch in her wrist.
“It’s not rocket science ferchrissake!” she barks, and finally gets control of the hammer and drives a stake into the ground through sheer rage. She grabs another stake. She moves to the opposite corner of the canvas, and then wills the metal bit straight through the fabric and into the ground by pounding madly, wildly, missing as many blows as she connects. Sweat breaks out on her neck and brow. She pounds and pounds. She loses herself for a moment.
At last she pauses, exhausted, breathing hard, greasy with perspiration.
“Okay . . . that’s one way to do it,” Josh says softly, rising to his feet, a smirk on his chiseled brown face as he regards the half-dozen stakes pinning the canvas to the ground. Lilly says nothing.
The zombies, coming undetected through the trees to the north, are now less than five minutes away. 

Now the part you've been waiting for, the giveaway dets. All you have to do to throw your name in the hat is leave me a comment here before midnight November 26. That's it. US/Canada only please. And don't forget to include your email addy so I can get in touch with you if you win. I'll draw a name randomly on Tuesday, November 27 and announce the winner here as well as notifying them personally. 

Good luck!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Ironskin Winner

By random number generator, the Ironskin winner is:


Congrats, Margay! I'll be sending you an email shortly. 

Thanks to everyone else who stopped by and entered. Happy reading!

Fourth Grave Beneath My Feet by Darynda Jones + Giveaway

Yep -- two tour posts in one day! It's time for another Darynda Jones post!

Ms. Jones has been busy, busy! Not only did she debut her new YA series last month with Death and the Girl Next Door but we've also got a brand new Charley Davidson installment as well! 

Book four in the series picks up two months after the end of Third Grave Dead Ahead. Charley is still recovering from her close call with Reyes's father and has picked up a bit of a shopping addiction while stewing, I mean recuperating, on her couch. Here's a little excerpt for your reading pleasure:

With renewed energy, I pulled back onto Academy— after hitting a drive- through for a mocha latte— and had just started for home when my phone rang.

“Yes?” I said, illegally talking on the phone while driving within the city limits. Scoping for cops, I waited for Uncle Bob to stop  talking to whomever he was talking to and get back to me.

My uncle Bob, or Ubie as I most often referred to him, was a detective for APD, and I helped him on cases from time to time. He knew I could see the departed and used that to his advantage. Not that I could blame him.

“Get that to her, then call the ME ay- sap.”

“Okay,” I said, “but I’m not sure what calling the medical examiner ay- sap is going to accomplish. I’m pretty sure his name is George.”

“Oh, hey, Charley.”

“Hey, Uncle Bob. What’s up?”

“Are you driving?”


“Have you heard anything?”

Our conversations often went like this. Uncle Bob with his random questions. Me with my trying to come up with answers just as random. Not that I had to try very hard. “I heard that Tiff any Gorham, a girl I knew in grade school, still stuff s her bra. But that’s just a rumor.”

“About the case,” he said through clenched teeth. I could tell his teeth were clenched because his words were suddenly forced. That meant he was frustrated. Too bad I had no idea what he was talking about.

“I wasn’t aware that we had a case.”

“Oh, didn’t Cookie call you?”

“She called me a doody- head once.”

“About the case.” His teeth were totally clenched again.

“We have a case?”

But I’d lost him. He was talking to another officer. Or a detective. Or a hooker, depending on his location and accessibility to cash. Though I doubted he would tell a hooker to check the status of the DOA’s autopsy report. Unless he was way kinkier than I’d ever given him credit for. I found his calling me only to talk to other people very challenging.

“I’ll call you right back,” he said. No idea to whom.

The call disconnected as I sat at a light, wondering what guacamole would look like if avocados were orange.

I finally shifted my attention to the dead kid in my backseat. He had shoulder- length blond hair and bright blue eyes and looked somewhere between fifteen and seventeen.

“You come here often?” I asked him, but my phone rang before he could say anything. That was okay. He had a vacant stare, so I doubted he would have answered me anyway.

“Sorry about that,” Uncle Bob said. “Do you want to discuss the case?”

“We have a case?” I said again, perking up.

“How are you?”

He asked me that every time he called now. “Peachy. Am I the case? If so, I can solve this puppy in about three seconds. I’m heading down San Mateo toward Central in a cherry red Jeep Wrangler with a questionable exhaust system.”


“Hurry, before I get away!”

Hopefully you're now dying to go out and grab a copy. It's what's been keeping me warm on this uncomfortably cold weekend! And now onto the giveaways:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Because You Have To by Joan Frank

Good morning, readers! I'm part of the TLC tour for Joan Frank's Because You Have To: A Writing Life today.

This book is a little different than my normal fare in that it's a collection of essays on the writing life. A typical synopsis and review post doesn't really fit this particular kind of book very well, so I'll forgo that format here.

Because You Have To features a wide ranging collection of pieces previously published in a variety of places, all focused on writing. It's earnest and fascinating, but you shouldn't at all expect it to be a how-to or a writing guide. Instead, it's a collection of pieces on the art, the emotion, and the thought behind writing.

I would almost suggest NOT approaching this book as you would any other book. It became tedious trying to read multiple pieces in one sitting. Some of the pieces resonated more with me as a reader than others. Some flew completely over my head and defied all efforts on my part to grasp what the author was trying to convey.

I don't mean to write it off at all. As I said, some of the pieces were highly insightful: "The Stillness of Sleeping Birds" and "Be Careful Whom You Tell" were particularly inspiring. I think as a whole that I simply expected this book to be something else. I'm not sure what I thought it would be -- I did know it was a collection of essays on writing -- but it nonetheless ended up being not quite what I'd hoped it would be in cracking the first pages. Oh, well.

To see what others on the tour thought, check out the official TLC tour page here.

For more on Joan Frank and her work, check out her website here.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

New releases 11/13/12

Some of the new titles hitting shelves this week are:

Edge of Black by J.T. Ellison

The Inexplicables by Cherie Priest

River Road by Suzanne Johnson

The Colony by A.J. Colucci

Never Coming Back by Hans Koppek

Beneath the Abbey Wall by A.D. Scott

Red Country by Joe Abercrombie

King's Man by Angus Donald

Skulduggery by Carolyn Hart

The Cold Cold Ground by Adrian McKinty

Dog in the Manger by Mike Resnick

A Drop of Chinese Blood by James Church

Sweet Tooth by Ian McEwan

A Death in the Small Hours by Charles Finch

Young Philby by Robert Littell

The Godspeaker Trilogy by Karen Miller

The Right Hand by Derek Haas

Dear Life by Alice Munro

Renegade by J.A. Souders

Reached by Ally Condie

Echo by Alyson Noel

Black City by Elizabeth Richards

Sacred by Elana K. Arnold

New on DVD:
The Watch

New reviews at Bookbitch.com:
Ten by Gretchen McNeil
Ironskin by Tina Connolly

Friday, November 9, 2012

Renegade by J.A. Souders

Evelyn's life is just about perfect. Every morning she wakes at the same time. She has breakfast. she meets with her Therapist, and then she's free to visit her garden. She is respected and well cared for. She is, after all, a Daughter of the People. Handpicked by Mother herself to follow in her footsteps and one day lead Elysium, their underwater haven. They have everything they need here: food, resources, entertainment, jobs, and they're safe from the wicked surface dwellers above. But one day a surface dweller finds his way into Elysium. Evelyn is fascinated by him and wants to help him in spite of everything she's always been taught. No one in Elysium is ever allowed to question Mother. But soon Evelyn begins to do just that. And once she starts to doubt Mother's teachings and rules, Evelyn finds herself in big trouble.

J.A. Souders's debut is crazy! Crazy good and crazy, crazy!

I love the world! An underwater utopia -- anyone familiar with BioShock has to automatically love this idea. In fact, the pitch I read on Renegade called it part Bourne and part BioShock. I'm all for that!

(As an aside I've often wondered why there aren't more underwater worlds. It seems pretty logical to me that there should be!)

It's not clear at the outset exactly what's going on with Evelyn, but by the end of the first chapter you know Elysium and Mother are pretty freaking warped! Souders wastes no time getting straight to the action while provided a great balance of set up for the reader in explaining the world.

The book only becomes more twisted and bloody from that point forward. Mother is bad. Really, really bad. You know she's bad but Souders still manages to shock and disturb the reader with just how bad this character gets.

And then there's Evelyn. Sweet and flighty Evelyn who really isn't flighty at all. I won't give away her story, you have to read Renegade yourself to learn that. Needless to say I kind of loved this book. There were definitely a few moments when I had to roll my eyes and admit maybe the book went a little too far in one direction, but I quickly popped back into the story and forgave those instances. It was too much fun not to!

Renegade officially hits shelves on Tuesday, November 13. I highly recommend adding this one to your "Absolutely Must Have" list as soon as you can!

Check back here next Thursday, November 15, for a Q&A with the author!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

The Elysium Underground

Join the Elysium Underground and help spread the word about Renegade!

The release of J.A. Souders's teen debut, Renegade, is just around the corner and you can help spread the word. Complete tasks and earn points for prize giveaways simply by helping get word out about this fabulous new futuristic dystopian release!

Check here for dets and more and go get started!

And be sure to come back here next week for a review and author Q&A.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

City of Screams by James Rollins and Rebecca Cantrell

Hi, readers! I'm super excited about today's post. James Rollins and Rebecca Cantrell have teamed up for a brand spanking new and exciting thriller due out in Jan. It's called The Blood Gospel, first in The Order of the Sanguine series. I am so looking forward to reading this one and was stoked that there's a brand new e-short prelude to the series available right now.

In City of Screams, Sergeant Jordan Stone of the Joint Expeditionary Forensic Facility in Kabul, and his team are sent out in response to a mysterious SOS call from an archaeology team in the Bamiyan Valley. The call, screams and the words "They're coming again... helpushelpushelpus...!" followed by gunfire and an unintelligible murmuring, sends the team racing to the Valley. They are joined by the only member of the archaeology team who happened to be off site at the time of the call, Professor Thomas Atherton. Atherton is able to confirm that the last part of the call is an ancient dialect that hasn't been spoken for years. In fact, the language dates back to the time of the site in question. When they learn what the end of the message means, they're certain they may be too late. 

Beware readers, you will be dying to get your hands on The Blood Gospel after this little teaser of a story. Not only that, but the e short comes with an excerpt of Blood Gospel as well. It promises to be the perfect blend of Rollins and Cantrell's individual talents and an exciting new series!

For more on The Blood Gospel, check out this page over on James Rollins's website.

Blood Gospel is due out Jan 8.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Elegy for Eddie by Jacqueline Winspear

Morning, all! I'm on the TLC tour for Jacqueline Winspear's Elegy for Eddie today.

I've read just one Maisie Dobbs book before now. Normally I'm a strict read-in-order series reader. In this case, it was easy to dive into book nine of the series without any issues. The mystery itself stands alone and there's enough intro material for continuing characters that I didn't feel like I was floundering around at all.

Maisie's latest case starts out as a favor for some long time friends. A handful of men from the market and close friends of Maisie's father have concerns about the death of Eddie Pettit. Pettit was well known for his ability to calm any horse. Though he was a bit slow in other regards, his equine skills were sought throughout the area. Eddie was running errands at a local paper factory when one of the rolls crushed him. The factory is adamant that it was nothing more than an unfortunate accident and the police seem to be in agreement, but the men aren't so sure. In fact, they want Maisie to investigate where the police will not.

If you're looking for a well-plotted mystery featuring a strong and independent woman, the Maisie Dobbs series is a perfect fit. She's a PI and psychologist in 1933 England. As of Elegy for Eddie, she's inherited some money but she comes from a humble background, lucky enough to have been supported by those who saw she was capable of so much more.

One of the stand outs of the series -- aside from Winspear's writing, Dobbs as a character, and the immaculate plotting -- is the setting. In particular, the time period the series is set in. It's clear that Winspear has spent a lot of time carefully researching the period she's chosen. And those efforts have paid off. It's one of the things that makes this series so unique and, I think, beloved amongst readers.

The books, in order, are:
Maisie Dobbs
Birds of a Feather
Pardonable Lies
Messenger of Truth
An Incomplete Revenge
Among the Mad
The Mapping of Love and Death
A Lesson in Secrets
Elegy for Eddie
Leaving Everything Most Loved (March '13)

For more stops on the tour, visit the official TLC tour page here.

For more on Winspear and her work, check out her official site (linked above). You can also like her on Facebook. Winspear has created an interesting blog devoted to the inspiration behind the Maisie Dobbs series at maisiedobbs.com. I definitely recommend reading as it covers some really fabulous material.

Monday, November 5, 2012

What the Zhang Boys Know by Clifford Garstang

Morning, readers! I'm part of the TLC tour for Clifford Garstang's What the Zhang Boys Know this morning.

The building is known as the Nanking Mansion. Home to twelve condos and an assortment of characters, it serves as the connecting web between the short stories in Clifford Garstang's What the Zhang Boys Know.

First we meet Zhang Feng-qi and his sons, Simon and Wesley. Feng-qi has recently lost his wife to a tragic car accident. He's struggling in his new role as a single father and hopes that he'll soon find a woman who can help fill the hole his wife left in her death. He's also just recently brought his aging father over from China.

His neighbors are: a young seemingly enamored couple, an artist, a sculptor, a recently divorced lawyer, a gay couple who live together with their pug, and a woman who's recently lost her job. Then there's the building manager and the author who sublet his apartment to the young couple.

Each person gets their own story in this collection. Each character is richly detailed and very flawed. In fact, it's downright difficult to find anything redeeming about a few of these folks. Others, though, are charming in their own ways. All of them are utterly fascinating.

All of the stories can certainly stand alone as short literary pieces. As a collection, though, I really love the use of the building as a theme that brings them all together. As someone who already imagines weird and unlikely stories about their own neighbors (hey, I've never met most of them. I can't help it!), I find it very easy to picture each of the people in Nanking Mansion living in the houses around me. Which just makes me wonder what's going on behind those closed doors even more than before!

For more stops on the tour, visit the official TLC tour page here. For more on Clifford Garstang and his work, visit his website here.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

New releases 11/06/12

Some of the new titles hitting shelves this week are:

The Bracelet by Roberta Gately

Dark Lie by Nancy Springer

The Boy in the Snow by MJ McGrath

Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver

Flame of Sevenwaters by Juliet Marillier

Still Life With Shape-Shifter by Sharon Shinn

Days of Blood and Starlight by Laini Taylor

Bitter Blood by Rachel Caine

Eternally Yours by Cate Tiernan

New on DVD:
The Amazing Spiderman

New reviews at Bookbitch.com:
The Scottish Witch by Cathy Maxwell
What the Zhang Boys Know by Clifford Garstang
Charlotte Street by Danny Wallace

Friday, November 2, 2012

The Scottish Witch by Cathy Maxwell + a giveaway

Whew! It's November. Not that that's cause for celebration as far as I'm concerned. I'm not a fan of winter and this means we're one step closer to even more snow and dark and dreary days as far as I'm concerned.

After all that horror for Halloween I needed something to lighten up the mood a bit. It was fortunate that Cathy Maxwell's The Scottish Witch arrived. Still keeping a bit on the supernatural side, though :P

This is the second installment in Maxwell's Chattan Curse trilogy and it hit shelves just this week.

At twenty-seven, Portia Maclean has accepted the fact that she's a spinster. Never having fallen in love, and having grown up witness to her parents' strained relationship, she doesn't really feel she's missing out. But she's determined that her sister will be able to marry for love. In spite of their precarious position, they've been able to make it work... until now. When Harry Chattan arrives in their small village, Portia comes up with a plan. Chattan is searching for a witch he thinks may finally relieve his family of the curse that was set upon them generations ago. And Portia just happens to have recently discovered a book of spells. If she plays the situation right, she may be able to take Chattan's reward money and get her family set -- for a little while. But Chattan is not some silly man suffering from crazy superstition, nor is he one to be played for a fool. 

The Scottish Witch was the perfect sort of pick me up, light read for my post Halloween horror marathon. This is an adorable story and one that I want to see through to the end. I've not yet read book one, though it's not totally necessary to read it prior to Scottish Witch as Lyon's Bride concerns Harry's brother. Their story will come to a conclusion in book three, The Devil's Heart, which concerns Harry's sister, Margaret.

The Scottish moors, a curse, witches, and all set in the 1800s, this was bound to be fun. And it most definitely was! Throw in a headstrong and stubborn pair of leads and some steamy scenes, and The Scottish Witch turns into the perfect read for a cold and dreary evening.

Thanks to the publisher, I have one copy to offer up for giveaway. All you have to do is leave a comment here (with your email addy so I can contact you if you win) before midnight, November 18. I'll randomly select a winner on Monday, November 19. US/Canada only please.

Good luck!